Former Vancouver Island man stuck in Thailand after fleeing China to avoid coronavirus

Mark Conway unsure when he can return to teaching job at Chinese university

Former Qualicum Beach resident Mark Conway finds himself stuck in Thailand, after recently catching a last-minute plane to the country following news reports about the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The illness caused by the virus has a name as of Tuesday — COVID-19. The epidemic has now taken approximately 1,100 lives.

Conway was a server at the Beach Club restaurant in Parksville for five years and moved to China to teach at a university seven years ago. His classes have been canceled until further notice. He said he loves living in China and can’t wait to get back – all his best friends live in the country, most of whom are still there.

“They’re scared and lonely,” said Conway, over a sometimes glitchy Skype connection from his Bangkok hotel. “I talk to them every day.”

READ MORE: B.C. coronavirus testing continues, still only one confirmed case

READ MORE: Renowned Canadian epidemiologist to lead coronavirus study team: WHO

READ MORE: New coronavirus has infected more than 20,600 globally

A recent message from Conway’s best friend described the scene in China — he said a drone flew over him and told him to put on a mask, or else it would drop one on him.

Conway said he knew he had to leave his home in Zhenjiang after a couple days of staying indoors. The Chinese government told everyone to not leave their homes, and Conway compiled for as long as he could before riding his e-bike to the store.

“7-Eleven stayed open,” he said, adding a few other stores did the same. “There weren’t any fruits or vegetables, not even an onion.”

He was critical of how the coronavirus situation is being handled – in his eyes, everyone is scrambling, unsure of what’s going on and how to handle it.

He said getting the initial news was strange – no one really knew what to think. It was the first day of Chinese New Year, the spring festival, and people had just started their holidays.

“It’s like Christmas in Canada, everyone is with their families,” said Conway.

Conway was at his friend’s house for Chinese New Year. She’s a nurse, and came up and checked his temperature with a laser pointer thermometer before he walked in the door, confirming “he’s good.” He said they were all able to enjoy dinner, that the reality of the virus hadn’t really set in for everyone yet – they were even making jokes.

When the hysteria started to increase, Conway decided to try and get out of China. He said he threw a few things in a bag and was able to catch a flight out within the day, getting him to Thailand. He said the airport was “completely surreal”.

Conway lived in Thailand before he lived in China, so he said he’s doing fine. He has friends there and is safe, but is having to spend the equivalent to $70 Canadian per day on living expenses while he’s there.

“I can’t afford to live in a hotel forever,” he said.

Although his parents want him to come home to Qualicum Beach, Conway says he’ll only do that if the university cancels classes for the rest of the semester.

The school recently announced that they would start up online classes in March, but there hasn’t been word on when physical classes will startup. For now, he’s playing a waiting game for things to get back to normal, so he can get back to his job and life in China.

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

ChinaCoronavirusParksvillequalicum beachThailand

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

CN suspending service between Williams Lake and Squamish, effective April 3

Rail traffic north of Williams Lake will be routed to Vancouver through Prince George and Kamloops

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read